Before taking last quarter’s class on Vietnamese American Experience, my understanding of Vietnamese American history was limited to the anecdotes shared by my family, visits to Little Saigon, and history taught in school. By conducting an oral history project on my father and engaging in thoughtful conversations with classmates throughout class, I was able to see a common thread amongst Vietnamese Americans – they never forget their homeland, but have built a life in America.
The same goes for my father. Although he was the first person that came to mind for my project, he objected at first. He has always been an open book, but I think he just didn’t want to be interviewed. After explaining to him that I wanted to preserve his history and share his story, he agreed. I didn’t really know what to expect from the oral history project, or how the interview was going to play out. If you should listen to the first minutes of the interview audio file, you might be able to tell that I’m hesitant and nervous at points. It gets better after though.
As the interview with my dad continued, I lost track of time. I became engaged in my father’s story; although I had heard bits and pieces before, I never was presented with a formal outline of his life. I was in awe of the struggles he encountered during the Vietnam War, his withstanding strength as he left his homeland, and the fact that he has been able to call America his home today. The interview lasted two hours, and although I bet it could have lasted for hours more, it was about 11:00pm when we ended.
The transcription process was probably the longest task aside from the interview, but it was my favorite. Playing back my father’s interview gave me an opportunity to really listen to my father’s reminisces. I was really proud of the interview, because I felt that my dad really opened up. I’ve always been close to my dad, but I felt a greater connection to him because I now knew more about his childhood and about his life in great detail. After all the proper documents were finished and edited, I decided to create a short video presentation to share with the class. Although I could have opted out for a less time-consuming presentation such as PowerPoint or a collage, I wanted to create a video because I wanted my peers to see my father’s interview visually. I planned to give my dad the video, but he didn’t want to see it because he said it was embarrassing. He still hasn’t seen it yet, and it’s been more than 4 weeks since I presented the video, but I plan on asking him to watch it soon!
- Stephanie Wong